Atlanta: Pontiac final qualifying notes

COMMERCE, Ga., May 5, 2001 - Qualifying for the 21st annual Advance Auto Parts NHRA Southern Nationals concluded today at Atlanta Dragway. In Pro Stock Truck, yesterday's track records for both elapsed time and top speed from defending champion...

COMMERCE, Ga., May 5, 2001 - Qualifying for the 21st annual Advance Auto Parts NHRA Southern Nationals concluded today at Atlanta Dragway. In Pro Stock Truck, yesterday's track records for both elapsed time and top speed from defending champion Bob Panella Jr. in his Chevy S-10 held up for the top qualifying position. Panella had an elapsed time of 7.471 seconds at 180.69 mph. Teammate Jeff Gracia was right behind Panella in his Panella Trucking GMC Sonoma with an elapsed time of 7.499 seconds at 180.43 mph. Rounding out the top five in qualifying in order was Greg Stanfield, Don Smith and Taylor Lastor, all piloting Chevy S-10s. John Lingenfelter in the Summit Racing GMC Sonoma qualified 12th with an elapsed time of 7.565 seconds at 179.56 mph.

In Pro Stock, Greg Anderson grabbed his first career No. 1 qualifying position in his Pontiac Firebird with an elapsed time of 6.934 seconds at 198.47 mph. Mike Edwards is second, Kurt Johnson is third, and Edwards' teammate Ron Krisher is fourth, all in Cavaliers. Warren Johnson rounds out the top five in his Pontiac Grand Am. Other Grand Am qualifiers include George Marnell in sixth, Richie Stevens Jr. in eighth, Bruce Allen in ninth, and Mark Pawuk rounding out the top 10. Tom Martino and Brad Jeter have also placed Grand Ams in the field in 11th and 13th, respectively, and Jim Yates is 14th.

In Funny Car, Pontiac also held down the No. 1 qualifying spot in the fastest Funny Car field in NHRA history as Jerry Toliver in the WWF/XFL Pontiac Firebird qualified first at 4.843 seconds at 310.98 mph. Bruce Sarver is also in a Firebird in second, Ron Capps is third in a Camaro, Whit Bazemore is fourth in a Firebird, and John Force is fifth in a Mustang. Del Worsham and teammate Frank Pedregon are ninth and 12th, respectively, in their Firebirds, and Tony Bartone is 10th and Tim Wilkerson is 11th, both in Firebirds. Scotty Cannon in 13th and Johnny Gray in 16th round out the Firebird entries.

Mike Dunn in Top Fuel qualified the Gwynn/Steinbrenner/Yankee GMC Dragster second at 4.583 seconds at a track-record speed of 324.75 mph. Kenny Bernstein qualified No. 1 at 4.521 seconds at 318.92 mph.


Jeff Gracia (Panella Trucking GMC Sonoma) - "Trying to qualify Nos. 1 and 2 is something that Bobby (Panella) and I have been trying to do all along. It shows all the progress we've been making back at the shop, working on horsepower and stuff. Hopefully, we'll put both trucks into the finals tomorrow." No. 2 qualifier - 7.499ET/180.43MPH


Greg Anderson (Marnell-Black/Humphrey Motorsports Pontiac Firebird) - "I don't mind having the bull's eye on my back. I've never had it before, and I look at Warren (Johnson) and he's always had it and doesn't seem to have a problem with it, he comes right through it. Hopefully I've learned from him, can act like a professional and just do the job I need to do."

(On Warren Johnson's influence on his career) "Absolutely, he's been a huge influence. I make no bones about it he's taught me everything I know. And I'm proud to have learned from him - he's definitely the best. I went to the best college there is. I just hope I took something from that and hope someday I can be somewhere near the caliber of driver he is." No. 1 qualifier - 6.884ET/199.82MPH

George Marnell (Marnell-Black Pontiac Grand Am) - "I was a little disappointed in that last session. The car fell off and we'll have to look at the computer to see exactly why. We might have a valve spring or something. I'm really looking forward to tomorrow. I think having lane choice might really be a factor, and having both cars in the top half of the field, I guess you really can't ask more than that." No.6 - 6.913ET/199.97MPH

Jim Yates (SplitFire/Peak Pontiac Grand Am) - "It was obvious all weekend that we had a lot of power but we had some electrical problems in the car, but the crew stuck with it and got the Splitfire Grand Am where it needs to be. We had confidence in the crew the whole weekend and everybody thought that we could do it, and we just had faith in each other. The track wouldn't give you what we thought would be a good 60-foot time, so we tried to make it softer at 60-foot and get the tire under control and then let the motor run the rest of the track. We knew if we made a decent run we had enough horsepower to qualify, we just needed to get the car under control and let the motor qualify the car." No. 14 qualifier - 6.939ET/199.58MPH


Jerry Toliver (WWF/XFL Pontiac Firebird) - "I feel great. We've done a lot of testing and we've been trying to work through our problems and it seems that we've found it. We'll see. It's lasting so far. You have to look at like this, we're No. 1 qualifier, Tony (Bartone) is 10th and in the heat of the day our two cars were the second and third quickest. (Ron) Capps beat me by a hundredth. So, I've got to feel real good about that. Our race-day setup is looking really good and we're in a good spot being the No. 1 qualifier. It's a heck of a lot better then it has been, I can tell you that much. My guys have worked their pants off and have kept their chins up. We've had a terrible, terrible start to our season. Hopefully it's behind us and we can start marching forward." No. 1 qualifier - 4.843ET/310.98MPH

Bruce Sarver ( Pontiac Firebird) - "We were just trying something different in the aerodynamic package in the first session today and obviously it didn't work. The track was pretty greasy out there. We'll go back to what we had yesterday and this Pontiac should be right back there in the mid .80s. We just wanted to see what it would do today in hot weather. We've done this when it's nice, like we did it at Vegas, and it worked and we ran some big speed there, but we wanted to try it in hot weather. We know we've got a good hot-weather setup like it is, but we had the opportunity since it was real hot today and we were already up in the field. We'll just make one more easy lap today and get ready for tomorrow." No. 2 qualifier - 4.847ET/310.05MPH

Del Worsham (Checker/Schuck's/Kragen Pontiac Firebird) - "The heat wasn't going to allow big steps up, but what's important is what you did in relation to the other guys. That was a great lap in that respect, but it kind of stinks that we lost a belt down there. I wanted to see it haul all the way, and it was going so I feel pretty good going into tomorrow. We ended up just on the south side of the top half of the field, but I really don't see much difference in the lanes. And if you're superstitious, you'd be happy to knock a belt off on Saturday afternoon to get the gremlin out of your system. That's a lot better than doing it tomorrow morning." No. 9 qualifier - 4.906ET/309.77MPH

Frank Pedregon (Checker/Schuck's/Kragen Pontiac Firebird) - "That's actually two runs in a row where it went right down there and didn't hurt itself, but it dropped a cylinder for a little bit again. That's not hard to do in this heat, but we want to clean up for tomorrow. We've got John Force in Round 1, and you know what, I think that's fine. You've got to beat the guy to win anyway, he's always in your way, so let's get him early and get on a roll. If we go down the track on all eight, he better be ready to match a good number." No. 12 qualifier - 4.924ET/299.26MPH


Mike Dunn (Gwynn/Steinbrenner/Yankee GMC Dragster) - "We really have been trying to get a handle on this thing. I actually had to put some brake on during that 4.58 run so I think if we get a handle on some of these little gremlins, the car's capable of a really strong run." No. 2 qualifier - 4.583ET/324.75MPH (track record)

-GM Racing

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bruce Sarver , Frank Pedregon , Bob Panella , Mike Dunn , Richie Stevens Jr. , Brad Jeter , Mark Pawuk , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Tony Bartone , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Greg Anderson , Ron Krisher , Jeff Gracia , John Lingenfelter , Scotty Cannon , Greg Stanfield , Bruce Allen , Tom Martino , Tim Wilkerson , George Marnell , Johnny Gray , Jerry Toliver , Mike Edwards